Most cable companies require a set-top box to view their cable channels, even on newer televisions with digital cable QAM tuners, because most digital cable channels are now encrypted, or "scrambled", to reduce cable service theft. A cable from the jack in the wall is attached to the input of the box, and an output cable from the box is attached to the television, usually the RF-IN or composite input on older TVs. Since the set-top box only decodes the single channel that is being watched, each television in the house requires a separate box. Some unencrypted channels, usually traditional over-the-air broadcast networks, can be displayed without a receiver box. The cable company will provide set top boxes based on the level of service a customer purchases, from basic set top boxes with a standard definition picture connected through the standard coaxial connection on the TV, to high-definition wireless DVR receivers connected via HDMI or component. Older analog television sets are "cable ready" and can receive the old analog cable without a set-top box. To receive digital cable channels on an analog television set, even unencrypted ones, requires a different type of box, a digital television adapter supplied by the cable company. A new distribution method that takes advantage of the low cost high quality DVB distribution to residential areas, uses TV gateways to convert the DVB-C, DVB-C2 stream to IP for distribution of TV over IP network in the home.
I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable” and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days… Read the rest of my story here.
The bandwidth of the amplifiers also was limited, meaning frequencies over 250 MHz were difficult to transmit to distant portions of the coaxial network, and UHF channels could not be used at all. To expand beyond 12 channels, non-standard "midband" channels had to be used, located between the FM band and Channel 7, or "superband" beyond Channel 13 up to about 300 MHz; these channels initially were only accessible using separate tuner boxes that sent the chosen channel into the TV set on Channel 2, 3 or 4.
FilmStruck ($6.99/mo, $10.99/mo., $99/yr.): A cinephile’s paradise, this service offers a range of classic, independent and foreign films from around the world, including (at the higher-tier subscription) most of what’s been released by the boutique home video company the Criterion Collection. (Lower tier subscriptions include a rotating selection.) FilmStruck, which is developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies, has been adding hundreds of classic titles since February from the Warner Archive, which until recently had its own streaming service. Tons of Old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “Rebel Without a Cause” are now available on FilmStruck as result. What’s more, its home page is one of the best-curated, best-updated of any streaming site.
The moment for me when the idea of dropping TV service became a long term prospect rather than just a short term experiment so I could write this article, was when I plugged in the antenna. The fact that I can get such high quality output, for network and PBS channels I had been paying for makes it hard for me to envision going back to a cable TV subscription. In addition, I have to sit through far fewer commercials (though I suspect that may change over time). Watching Netflix movies on the TV is much more satisfying than on the smaller computer screen and of course the freedom to watch current TV programs on my own schedule is a huge benefit when juggling the demands of work and family. I know there will be times during the year when a sports event I want to watch will be unavailable. But there's just no arguing with the dramatic cost savings. Pay TV is undeniably a richer experience, but is it worth a 330% premium? Not for me.
Not everyone thought this was a good service when it debuted, but it's so far stuck with that "introductory" price that would put it in line with icky cable subscriptions. If you've got an AT&T phone plan, you can add DirecTV Now for just $10 a month; HBO is included if you've got an AT&T Unlimited Choice or Plus plan. You can watch DirecTV Now on your PC via browser, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, ChromeCast, Roku devices, iOS, and Android—it's not on any game consoles. Lacking however: DVR options. There's plenty of video on demand, but not for every show.
In hindsight, some TV executives believe the industry would be much healthier now if everyone—programmers and distributors—had agreed to make all episodes of shows available to cable subscribers on any device. That was the dream behind TV Everywhere, an idea hatched in 2009 by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. But in those crucial early days, TV Everywhere struggled to get off the ground.
The answer to that will depend on what you’re specifically looking for from television. If your answer is “I want it all,” then honestly, you may be better off sticking with cable or satellite, because getting it “all” piecemeal will likely be prohibitively expensive. But if you have particular areas of interest, cord-cutting is definitely feasible and probably cheaper. (More advice on how to cut your bill without fully cutting the cord can be found in this guide from Wirecutter.)
You also don't need to fill tied to a particular day and time. There's a couple of good solutions for recording live television. The TiVo Bolt includes the ability to record live television from an antenna, but you will still need to pay TiVo's $15 a month subscription. Tablo offers a cheaper solution, but it is still $5 a month. Last, there is Channel Master, which doesn't have a monthly subscription.
Initial installation may be more expensive with satellite service than initial installation with cable TV. Satellite dishes can be costly, so if your plan doesn’t include a satellite dish and installation, you can end up paying a good deal extra for these services. However, a lot of companies will include a satellite dish and installation for no extra cost, so just be sure to read the fine print.
Even when it comes to internet TV, it seems like some things never change. Similar to the cost creep we've seen on cable packages, cheap introductory rates from internet TV provides have recently crept higher. Sling, PlayStation, DirecTV and YouTube have all instituted recent price hikes, as they're not immune from the same bundling and price pressure from networks that pushes prices up on traditional TV.